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Bud Selig backs Wilpons, sidesteps Mets questions
NEW YORK — Though Derek Jeter's is the most famous farewell tour going on this season, Bud Selig has been enjoying himself at Major League ballparks throughout 2014 as well.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen — ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry," MLB commissioner Selig said on Tuesday, seated at a podium, addressing the members of the press gathered in the Citi Field press conference room. "Obviously, I am here today on my ballpark tour — I think this is No. 20. So I have 10 more to go, and four more scheduled, and I'll probably do the rest [in] the offseason. But I've enjoyed this immensely, and I'll throw it open to you!"
The commissioner has been well-received. Usually, as he's about to arrive, the press gets an advisory that he's coming, and press conferences are held. The A's on Aug. 18, theDodgers on Sept. 4, the Giants on Sept. 10.
The same cannot be said for fans of the Mets, particularly those paying attention to the commissioner's role in propping up the team's current ownership. No advisory came to the media about Selig's presence, not even to the beat writers. Some questions, you'd imagine, the Mets and Selig would prefer not to face, whether about the sexual discrimination lawsuit brought against Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon by a former team vice president, Leigh Castergine, or the years Selig has propped up the team's ownership financially.
Back in 2011, Selig had an owner in Los Angeles, Frank McCourt, in severe financial distress.
McCourt attempted to hold onto the Dodgers by signing a television deal with Fox thatincluded a significant up-front loan. Meanwhile, he cut his payroll all the way down to $83 million.
When Selig first denied McCourt's request to finalize the television deal, then ultimately wrested control of the team from McCourt, these are the benchmarks he cited publicly for doing so. Selig denied McCourt even the chance to accept a $30 million loan. And here's what he said on the day MLB took control of the Dodgers: "I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the club."
The reason was a simple one: McCourt was using assets of the Dodgers to help bail him out of a financial hole, one exacerbated by his ugly divorce.
Selig's legacy is pretty safe in Los Angeles, though anger over letting McCourt get a hold of the Dodgers in the first place wouldn't be unreasonable. The new owners mushroomed payroll well over $200 million, the Dodgers made the NLCS last season, and they are likely heading back to the postseason in 2014.
There was another team with deep financial difficulties in 2011. The Mets, as you've probably heard by now, are owned by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, who invested virtually all of their money with Bernie Madoff, while using the liquidity in their Madoff accounts to essentially finance most of what the Mets did, not to mention create SNY, the team's regional sports network.
But while Selig took a hard line to McCourt, he's the reason the Wilpon/Katz ownership group has survived this long. He allowed them to borrow $430 million against their ownership stake in the team in 2009, and $450 million against their ownership stake in SNY in 2010, just to keep their heads above water after their Madoff holdings disappeared overnight.
MLB loaned the owners $25 million in 2011, then approved a bridge loan from Bank of America in Nov. 2011 (with the loan from MLB past due), right around the time the team was pretending it could afford Jose Reyes.
"I don’t have any concerns," Selig said in Oct. 2011. "I do have a lot of concerns but I am happy to say the Mets aren’t one of them."
His answer on McCourt, in that same story, was a bit briefer.
"We are in litigation," he said.
He's also issued a series of anodyne responses, variations on the "No concerns" theme, to any question about Mets finances ever since. When the lawsuit against Wilpon and Katz, brought by the trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims, settled in 2012 because the trustee determined that ownership was out of money?
When the team continued cutting payroll, landing them among the bottom fifth of teams, and borrowed additional money against their stake in SNY just to finance debt accrued by their parent company, Sterling Equities?
But of course, there's having no concerns about the ownership group surviving, something that happens when an unprecedented doubling of SNY's value over the past two years allows for more borrowing (also approved by MLB), and there's concern about how diverting that money away from the team itself, and to ownership's hungry creditors, serves anybody other than Wilpon and Katz. It shouldn't matter a bit to Selig how Wilpon and Katz survive financially — he's the commissioner of baseball, not the commissioner of Sterling Equities.
Or as it he put it, when he stepped in and took control of the Dodgers from McCourt, his concern should be "to protect the best interests of the club."
Still, he said back in May, when he denied the New York Times story that Katz wanted out, and the Mets are hemorrhaging money: "Major League Baseball has all the economic information. This idea that I should have reason to be concerned is just wrong."
So here's the question I put to Selig, beginning his press conference:
"In 2011, when denying the Fox TV deal and taking control of the Dodgers, you cited the slashed payroll and attempt to use Dodger television resources for owner debt. In 2014, the Mets now have a payroll at or below the 2011 Dodgers, and have acknowledged using team and television resources for owner debt. Please tell me any specific differences between the two situations that led you to permit the current Mets owners to do so, and please be as specific as possible."
Simply put: if there really were specific reasons to treat Mets ownership differently for doing precisely what he cited Frank McCourt for doing as he took McCourt's team away, here was the perfect opportunity to tell us why.
"Well, I'm not sure I quite understand your question, but let me try to answer it, and you tell me how I did. There are big differences. I think I've covered this subject many, many times.
But, and I don't want to go back into the whole Frank McCourt situation, because there were enormous ramifications there — many of which perhaps weren't public. As far as I'm concerned, I've said it in the past, and I'll say it again, I don't have any problem with the way the — with the Mets' financing, with what's going on. As far as all of our economic rules — and we have a myriad of them — they are in compliance with 'em. They're doing fine. The Dodgers were not in compliance with any of them."
Let's leave aside that we already know the Mets are not in compliance with, for instance,the debt ratio rule for MLB teams. And let's leave aside the unlikely (though not impossible, given McCourt) idea that the Dodgers managed to run afoul of all the MLB economic rules.
Why, exactly, did the commissioner allow Wilpon to do what cost McCourt his team? I began to reiterate the specifics, such as Dodger payroll, and Selig cut in.
"But that was only one of many factors. I mean, that has nothing to do — I don't quarrel with people who do payroll things. I watched it work — I'm trying to make a point to you. I've seen people who are very critical of clubs, and all of a sudden, X years later, those clubs are very competitive, and all the detractors are gone."
The point is a non-sequitur, of course. Sandy Alderson has managed to rebuild the team's farm system quite well, something he'd certainly have been able to do as well, if not better, with additional resources. (Privately, his lieutenants will be the first to tell you this.)
The question isn't whether the Mets needed Alderson to do this — it's whether allowing ownership to siphon off a huge portion of the team's annual revenue for their own debt was in the interest of the Mets as he did.
So I returned to the question of the other issue he'd publicly mentioned, which was the use of team resources to pay off McCourt's own debt. It's also something the Mets have acknowledged doing.
"So what, specifically, if you can name anything different between — because those are the only two things you cited at the time."
"There are a lot of things different," Selig responded, with some annoyance. "But let me just try to boil it down. I think I've answered it, but let me do it again."
Just to reset here, I'd asked for a single specific difference between the two situations. He'd neglected to provide any.
"They were out of compliance with every one of our internal economic rules. The Mets are in compliance with all of them. Big difference. Big difference."
So, to review: McCourt ran into huge financial problems, attempted to loot his team's television revenue to survive it, and lost his team. Wilpon ran into huge financial problems, attempted to loot his team's television revenue to survive it, and is in compliance with all of MLB's financial rules.
Apparently, MLB's financial rules look to Selig the way the law looked to Richard Nixon.
"If the President does it, it's not illegal."
By the way, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson recently said, of increasing payroll in 2015:
"It's gonna be prohibitive."
The team needs a left fielder and a shortstop. It would seem to be in the best interests of the club to have an owner capable of providing money for them, either via free agency, or via the ability to acquire a player with a decent salary in a trade.
But Bud Selig's tenure ends at the end of the year. The New York Mets, and their finances, won't be his concern.
“There are already the pieces that make up a division champion, and there are more pieces on the way from the minors.”
On Baseball: Washington Nationals can celebrate the present — and their future
By Barry Svrluga September 16
ATLANTA — Take it in, because nothing is guaranteed. What happened Tuesday night here at Turner Field — streams of players with “Washington” emblazoned on their chests piling out of the dugout onto the field and onto each other — doesn’t automatically mean more scenes like it in the future. Might have seemed that way in 2012. Last summer taught us to cherish each time.
So savor it all. Drew Storen’s two pumps of his fist just before Adam LaRoche recorded the final out. The sloppy jump-and-bump of outfielders Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper. The hugs from owners to players and players to staff, and the 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves that brought the 2014 National League East title for the Washington Nationals.
With that, the bust of 2013 turned into a blip. Now, last year’s lost season is the middle of a sandwich made with sugar-sweet bread, the less palatable part of the phrase “two division titles in three years.” Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so disappointing. Now, use those division titles as data points. Do we have a trend?
“The plan is we keep this thing going for the long term, the long haul, and to be competitive for a long time,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a delirious clubhouse, a combination of Miller Lite and Korbel dripping off his bald pate. “We looked ourselves in the mirror in ’13. We weren’t a perfect team, but we thought we had a good foundation, that we were a good franchise.”
Think about that for a moment. This good foundation, this good franchise, from where there was — rather recently — nothing. Maybe this is a good time to remind everyone that 10 years ago this very night, Washington did not yet have a baseball team. And that in the winter of 2004-05, the franchise had its accounting operations in Montreal, its baseball operations in Florida, its upper management at a Georgetown law firm and the guts of a fly-by-night, do-everything staff in trailers in the parking lots of RFK Stadium. Until now, the idea of sustained baseball success in Washington was somewhere between a blind hope and an abstract theory, with obstacles to overcome that should not soon be forgotten.
Nationals players celebrate their second National League East title in three years after a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. (The Washington Post)
They let go their first manager, a proud Hall of Famer, when he very much wanted to stay. They fired one manager midseason, a general manager in spring training, became embroiled in an age-changing scandal in the Dominican Republic, had another manager walk out on the job, and were for a time a downright laughingstock. They deserved it, every bit of it.
“We were below an expansion franchise,” Rizzo said. “The place was gutted. We had to start from below zero.”
Now they have a general manager who has the respect of scouts because he did their job so well for so long and has the respect of his peers because of the organization he has helped build. They have a manager, Matt Williams, who has the respect of his players because of how he played the game and how he has handled them in his first go-round. They have an organization at which players no longer laugh. Quite the opposite. They might actually be respected.
“It’s opposite ends of the spectrum,” said right fielder Jayson Werth, the man who became the Nationals’ first major free agent signing. “About as far as you can come.”
How far, exactly? One scout here Tuesday said this: “I think Washington has the best roster, one through 45, of anybody in baseball.” Translation: There are already the pieces that make up a division champion, and there are more pieces on the way from the minors.
This is a franchise deep enough that the man who pitched seven innings of scoreless ball in the clincher over the Braves — Tanner Roark, he of the 2.85 ERA — might not have a spot in the postseason rotation. This is a franchise deep enough that Ryan Zimmerman, its face for so long, could have a difficult time finding a spot when he returns from his hamstring injury at least in part because his eventual replacement at third base, Anthony Rendon, developed right under his nose. This is a franchise deep enough that Rafael Soriano, who earned $22 million to be the closer over the past two years, faltered badly over the past month, and he can be replaced by a 27-year-old who once saved 43 games in a season himself, Storen.
Zimmerman spent Tuesday night not drinking it in and slurping it down with his teammates, but in an apartment in Viera, Fla., where he is rehabbing his injury. “Hopefully, I’m helping us get to the point where we have a few more celebrations like that,” he said by phone.
The Post Sports Live crew makes a case for Nationals manager Matt Williams to win manager of the year for the National League after leading the team back to the playoffs. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
But as he gets himself prepared for the postseason, the Nationals’ first draft pick also learned a lesson about the only organization he has ever known. His rehab Tuesday included five at-bats in a game with Nats minor leaguers, 20-year-olds who want to get where he is.
“Being down here now and seeing the instructors, I can see how these kids become so good,” Zimmerman said. “These coaches care about them. And now they’re probably all watching, and looking at the celebration on TV and seeing how cool it is, and it makes them want to work even harder.”
There has, too, been a major development off the field. Now, there are fans — curly W-wearing, watch-every-game-till-they-have-to-go-to-bed fans — who aren’t scarred by 33 years without baseball, who never needed to travel up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to see the “home” team, who will one day be able to tell their kids they watched Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in their primes at old Nationals Park, passing stories down without a gap that left an entire generation without baseball.
Those fans, too, have developed the way fan bases should. There was, of course, the pain of back-to-back 100-loss seasons, and the answer to the trivia question “Who threw the first pitch in Nationals Park history?” will always and forever be Odalis Perez. But there was also the knife-in-the-heart of the 2012 NL Division Series against St. Louis, when a trip to the NL Championship Series was guaranteed until it wasn’t.
Where this will all lead — in a month or a year or a decade — we don’t yet know. What we do know, though, is that this division title was both hard-earned and that it assures nothing going forward. But pick a team to root for over the next five years. Which one is set up better to provide more moments like Tuesday?
“The goal, actually, is to protect as few prospects as is reasonably possible in order to maintain 40-man roster maneuverability. “
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Which prospects will Mets shield in Rule 5?
By Adam Rubin
NEW YORK -- Sandy Alderson essentially said Monday that he cannot protect all of the prospects in December’s Rule 5 draft that he would like to shield because of a 40-man roster crunch.
In fact, the Mets’ 40-man roster will be full entering the winter even after subtracting free agents. That’s because Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bobby Abreu's departures will be offset by Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell having to be reinstated from the 60-day DL right after the postseason.
So for every prospect the Mets attempt to protect, they will have to remove one player already on the 40-man roster. That means in many cases putting them through waivers and risking losing them, as long as another team is willing to carry the player on its 40-man roster.
The Mets already have added Dilson Herrera and Dario Alvarez to the 40-man roster, since they were eligible this winter anyway.
Noah Syndergaard is a slam dunk to be added.
Other strong considerations would have to include right-handers Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett and Akeel Morris and left-hander Jack Leathersich. Right-handers Gabriel Ynoa and Tyler Pill and slugging third baseman/outfielder Dustin Lawley also would merit discussion.
Remember, the goal is not to protect every valuable prospect. If an unprotected prospect is taken in the Rule 5 draft in December, he must stay on the drafting team’s major league roster for the entire 2015 season in order to officially become the new team’s property.
The goal, actually, is to protect as few prospects as is reasonably possible in order to maintain 40-man roster maneuverability.
So, for instance, Mets catching prospect Cam Maron is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. But is it really worth the Mets protecting him? In order to feel compelled to add him to the 40-man roster, the Mets would have to determine:
• There is a reasonable chance a team would select him in the Rule 5 draft.
• He would stick on that team’s major league roster all of 2015.
• It would be a painful loss to absorb if that happened.
The Mets once calculated with catching prospect Jesus Flores that he would not be selected and remain on another team’s roster the following season. However, after being selected in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in December 2006, Flores did stick the entire following season with the Nats and became their property.
Omar Minaya once said that was among his biggest mistakes as Mets GM, although it did not ultimately sting the Mets because injuries have undermined Flores’ career. He has since played for three more organizations and has not appeared in the majors since 2012.
OK, so let’s say the Mets do add five eligible prospects to the 40-man roster. Who would they subtract? Scanning the 40-man roster, you would presume the most vulnerable players would include: Andrew Brown, Cesar Puello, Wilfredo Tovar, Buddy Carlyle, Dana Eveland, Scott Rice, Juan Centeno and Josh Satin. Heck, if the Mets plan to non-tender Eric Young Jr. and/or Ruben Tejada -- and there’s no guarantee of either occurring -- they might just want to release them by the Nov. 20 deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to free spots.
The Mets also will need to delete a player from the 40-man roster every time they sign a free agent this offseason to a major league contract.
Who is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft?
Players who are 19 or older when they signed are eligible the fourth draft after they’re on board. Players 18 or younger are eligible the fifth draft after they’re on board.
So, generally, college players drafted in 2011 and high school players and Latin American teenagers signed in 2010 are eligible for the first time this year.
Here is an unofficial list compiled by ESPNNewYork.com of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft, with those with asterisks eligible for the first time (at least as I’ve computed it):
Maikis De La Cruz*
Players such as Jeremy Hefner, Omar Quintanilla, Taylor Teagarden, John Lannan and Allan Dykstra technically are Rule 5 eligible as well. They’re also minor-league free agents, so they may not be around by the winter meetings.
Stars get trolled when they play pundits
Maria Puente, USA TODAY September 13, 2014
Here's the pattern: Celebrity tweets an opinion. Opposing tweeters and trolls strike back. Celeb deletes tweet. Celeb apologizes for tweet. Celeb issues a statement clarifying tweet. And, occasionally, celeb trolls the trolls, fighting back, doubling down on whatever it is he or she tweeted in the first place.
Entertaining? Sort of.
Illuminating for whatever controversy is at issue? Not very.
Helpful to the opining celeb's career? Probably not, although whispers of "Blacklist!" are, so far, unsubstantiated.
"Entertainers have the right to free speech," says Eric Dezenhall of the Washington crisis-management firm Dezenhall Resources, "but they don't have the right to be taken seriously."
Think before you speak, sign, tweet
"#FreePalestine," tweeted Rihanna at 9:14 a.m. on July 15. Angry followers responded, and eight minutes later, she deleted it. Soon, there was a new tweet: "Let's pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?"One Direction's Zayn Malik received death threats after he also sent a "#FreePalestine" tweet.
Voice judge and singer CeeLo Green recently pled no contest to slipping Ecstasy to a woman at a restaurant in 2012. Then, in a series of tweets early this month, he suggested a woman has to remember being raped in order for it to be considered rape. Outrage followed, causing him to delete the tweets and apologize. But now, expressly because of his comments, he's beendeleted from multiple music festivals where he was set to perform.
So if the consequences of a controversial tweet are so immediate, obvious and sometimes embarrassing, why do it? Howard Bragman, vice chairman of Reputation.com, tells his clients to think before they tweet, and know what to expect.
"To be a star, you have to have thick skin — you know you'll get criticized for your role, your dress, your hair, your (butt), you're too skinny, you're too fat, whatever," says Bragman. Instead of politics, "it's smarter for most stars to focus on their craft and their acting, because they're going to get enough criticism for that."
Every day it seems as if there's a different star sounding off about something currently controversial — recently, the violence in Gaza, conflict in Ukraine, racial tension in Ferguson, Mo., contempt for President Obama — and then quickly retreating under heavy return fire.
Sometimes those upset by a celebrity's comment will explicitly tweet: Don't see his movie, don't watch her show, don't buy their music. But what's the real consequence?
Take Celebrity Exhibit A: Oscar-winning couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardemsigned an open letter in July with dozens of other of Spanish film stars, directors, musicians and writers, suggesting Israel's actions in Gaza amounted to "genocide" and calling for a cease fire.
Immediately, the couple were labeled "anti-Semites" on Twitter. Almost as immediately, both separately issued statements to clarify their views, denying they are anti-Semites and renewing their calls for peace in Gaza (a truce has since been achieved).
"My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza," Cruz said.
No matter how sincere, some critics weren't buying the Cruz-Bardem regrets. Twitter then became the platform for anonymous whispers that the couple would be, and deserved to be, "blacklisted" in Hollywood by furious Israel supporters, though there's no evidence of that. Neither actor nor their PR teams would comment.
"There are Hollywood executives who are quietly saying, 'Screw them,' " says Dezenhall. "Blacklisting people is different from the old days. It would be impossible to quantify now because no one will ever admit it — they will deny it until blood comes out of their ears."
Bragman says he's heard that buzz — but he doesn't believe it. "Just because Hollywood Jews are on the side of Israel doesn't mean they lack sympathy for the Palestinians," he says. "It's not like Mel Gibson, who probably was blacklisted (for his anti-Semitic rant to a cop), but he had so much money it didn't matter and he could create his own projects anyway."
Other big-name celebs have also sounded off on the hyper-touchy Israel/Gaza issue.
Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez posted pro-peace-in-Gaza tweets, along the lines of "Pray for Gaza," as Gomez put it. "Praying for everyone in Israel," wrote Kardashian, then later adding another tweet, "And praying for everyone in Palestine and across the world!"
Kardashian deleted her tweets after a flood of critical responses, and owned up to it. "I decided to take down the tweets because I realized that some people were offended and hurt by what I said," she wrote in a statement, "and for that I apologize." Gomez issued a clarifying tweet: "And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!"
Right-wing stars' tweets, posts and rants don't go over too well in liberal Hollywood, but they aren't openly threatened with blacklists, either. Oscar-winning Jon Voight regularly slams President Obama, and has added Cruz and Bardem ("ignorant," he called them) to his list of targets. Actor James Woods, another Obama loather ("a true abomination,"he's called POTUS on Twitter), says he expects his views to lose him roles, but so far he's doing just fine, as is Voight.
Last month, conservative actor Kevin Sorbo, best known for playing TV's Hercules in the '90s, posted a rant on Facebook blaming unrest in Ferguson, Mo.,after a police shooting of an unarmed teenager, on African-American "animals" and "losers."
Dezenhall says expressing views perceived as racist is almost impossible for a star to recover from. Expressing Obama-bashing views is possible, as long as the star is as established as Voight and Woods.
Or if they're like comedian Bill Maher, who loves being provocative for the sake of it and actually invitesflaming tweets.
"O.J. is becoming a Muslim? Well, he does have experience with beheading. Have at it trolls, sometimes i do it just for you xo," he tweeted Aug. 28. Sure enough, he got what he was looking for.
But it can be toxic for others, Dezenhall says.
"Even though Hollywood executives deny it, the contempt for conservative positions is so deep and so intense that it risks making someone radioactive," Dezenhall says.
'A perfect storm'
When ex-NFL-player-turned-actor Terry Crews tweetedand spoke out publicly against domestic violence in response to the former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice's abuse scandal this week, Crews was trolled by other men who called him a "punk" and questioned his manhood. On the other hand, actress Lena Dunham tweeted back, "You're wonderful."
For many people, and not just celebs, it's a tricky path in a brave new polarized world, when "you could cure cancer and 15% of people on Twitter would criticize you for putting pharmaceuticals and nurses and doctors out of business," says Bragman, who has helped celebs weather PR mistakes of their own making.
Combine the polarization with the instant nature of social media, plus a mainstream media driven by ratings and clicks, and the recipe is clear.
"Even the Google algorithm rewards controversy because controversy sells," Bragman says. "You almost have a perfect storm."
Compare the examples of two sports celebs, says Mark Zablow, CEO of Cogent Entertainment, who works with stars on managing their social media strategies.Michael Jordan, who was a superstar long before Twitter, never took a political stance on anything and never offended anyone while protecting his "pristine brand."
"There was no reason to pry into him and no social media to call him out" on anything in his real life, says Zablow. "There were no camera phones and paparazzi in every crevice."
Current superstar LeBron James takes political stances all the time, whether it's supporting President Obama or protesting the shooting of Trayvon Martin. "But he does it in an amazing way that either benefits his brand or shows his true authenticity to his brand — but without offending any groups," Zablow says.
"Some people in Hollywood live in a bit of a neverland where they think a PR crisis can be good for their careers," especially if they're C or D list anyway, says Bragman. "But no one is comfortable being in the middle of it when it's happening."
And yes, celebs are entitled to their opinions, and are entitled to express them publicly just like anyone else on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. But don't expect the same consequences.
"If a star is passionate about something, they should (speak out), as long as they understand the risk — as long as it's informed risk," Bragman says. "But unless the star is super, super intelligent and wise, I mostly advise them to err on the side of caution."
September 16, 2014
LYNN: THE CARDINALS' SECRET WEAPON
To understand how Lance Lynn has emerged a front-line starter without the due attention, you first must accept that he'll offer no air of niceties, no concern as to whether you like him or not. He certainly won't fit into the mold you think he should. And for that matter, he doesn't care if you've even noticed him these last three years.
He's surly and sarcastic, honest to the point that some inside the Cardinals organization cringe at the candor. He doesn't have Adam Wainwright's charm or John Lackey's postseason resume, Michael Wacha's storybook ascent or Shelby Miller's soothing Texas drawl.
He's a much more unlikable type, perhaps the reason why many in the St. Lous Cardinals' fan base were calling for him to be dealt last offseason to land a shortstop even though he had matched Wainwright's 33 wins from 2012-13. And perhaps it's the reason so few outside of St. Louis have noticed that the Cardinals' most consistent starter from season's start to September hasn't been the team's ace or the postseason wunderkind.
Rather, it's been the gruff right-hander who offers no apologies for not fitting in.
"We have so many leaders around here who are not very outspoken," Lynn says. "They have a tendency to be nice. That's good. But I guess every team needs that one guy who others fear."
Indeed, Lynn is not much for following the script, preferring to be blunt and almost always non-PC. His frankness is refreshing in an athlete-media culture where clichés or organization-driven messages too often dominate.
Lynn has no use for a facade, which is why, when recently asked about having more wins (48) since 2012 than any other NL starter not named Clayton Kershaw or Wainwright, Lynn quipped: "For a guy who averages 15 wins a year over a career, I'm one heck of a four or five." A fourth or fifth starter? "That's what you have been telling me I've been my whole career," he finished.
The motivation stemming from others' uncertainty about his ceiling has been entwined in his ascent, one that has seen Lynn butt heads with management's opinions while asserting his ability to do things his way.
Lynn is cut from the Chris Carpenter cloth, a brusque competitor who savors converting the skeptics. Only, Lynn can boast of maturing into a front-line starter much earlier in his career -- a reality that leaves the Cardinals excited about the right-hander's ceiling and also aware that the cost for his services is about to skyrocket.
He'll head into arbitration this winter as one of only three pitchers in franchise history -- joining Dizzy Dean (1932-36) and Harry Brecheen (1944-48) -- to win 15 or more games in three straight seasons, starting as a rookie or sophomore. He's been a bargain to this point, too, collecting less than $2 million since debuting in 2011. Market value for his contributions from then until now (according to a Fangraphs.com metric that converts a player's WAR to a dollar scale based on what that player would make in free agency) is nearly $50 million.
It's all indicative of him being a top-of-the-rotation talent without the accompanying compensation or recognition.
"I told anyone in Spring Training who would listen that he was my pick to click this year," Wainwright said a day before Lynn's last start, a complete-game effort on 101 pitches. "He was the guy who I thought was going to take off, and obviously he has. As good as he's pitched in the past, there was so much left in the tank. His natural ability is through the roof.
"I always kid with him that as soon as I retire, he's going to win a lot of Cy Youngs. I just think he has such great ability, and he's built for big innings. He's built for big-inning numbers and carrying a team deep into a season, deep into games. He's got that playoff stuff, too. If you look at guys in the postseason, guys who have a lot of success, usually have big stuff. And he's got big stuff."
That big stuff is a repertoire built around the fastball. The difference is, Lynn has three above-average ones -- a four-seamer, a two-seamer and a cutter. The velocities of the three may not feature much variance, but the actions on the pitches are in such contrast that Lynn has been able to reduce his reliance on the changeup, curveball and slider.
He's ridden that fastball-heavy mix to a 2.73 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .238 opponents batting average, 15 wins and the lowest home run rate (0.39 per nine innings) in the majors. He's allowed two or fewer earned runs in 11 of his last 13 starts and sits one behind Wainwright with 21 quality starts.
Among Major League pitchers with 180-plus innings as of Lynn's last start, he ranked in the top seven in earned runs (56) and hits allowed (167).
"He's strong. He's tough physically. He's tough mentally," manager Mike Matheny says. "He's one of those guys that as he gets deeper in the game, he seems to get better. And he's still young. That's a nice combination."
A maturation process
Lynn believed year three would be critical in his career, knowing that it was time to move from discovery to dominant.
He has pitched this year with a beat-'em-with-your-best mentality, a simple approach in principal, but not always in practice. In years past, he combated struggles by forcing adjustments. A bad start in 2012 led him to move from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side. That led to a few more poor performances, and he eventually moved back. Even last year, there was a tendency to pitch to hitters' weaknesses instead of relying on what he does best. No more.
Such was the case last Thursday when he was outdueled by Johnny Cueto in a 1-0 loss.
"You make sure you get beat with what you have instead of trying to do something different," Lynn says. "You have to figure out how to get them out with your strengths. If they can still beat you, at least you didn't give in."
It can be easy to forget that Lynn turned 27 just three months ago since he is the second-longest tenured Cardinals starter behind Wainwright. He won 18 games in his first full big league season and 15 in the next. Only Max Scherzer and R.A. Dickey accrued more in that span (and Wainwright tied Lynn with 33 wins), and both have a Cy Young Award to document it.
Still, the Cardinals were insistent that Lynn hadn't hit his ceiling. That 2012 win total was bloated by run support, as no one in the Majors had better offensive backing than Lynn (5.90 runs per game). Lynn also had a propensity for blow-up innings. In his first 70 starts, 28 times Lynn allowed three or more earned runs in an inning.
It was a topic of constant quibble during Lynn's rookie and sophomore seasons. Some on the Cardinals' coaching staff saw Lynn's demonstrative reaction to things going wrong around him as showing up teammates. Opponents sometimes thought it was directed their way. Lynn often didn't intend for either.
"You don't want anybody on the other side to know [you're upset]," Matheny explains. "You want to keep pitching. If something great happens, you pitch. If something [negative] happens behind you or you do something wrong, you pitch. And next thing you know, you've increased your odds of getting out of it.
"It's amazing because his stuff would look so good in years past and then his emotions would start to get the best of him and it was inevitable that more mistakes started to happen. I think it's because your mind gets so concentrated on the emotion of it that it's not on the execution of the next pitch."
There was not, however, immediate buy-in to the Cardinals' requests for Lynn to tone it down. Rather than see the Cardinals' efforts as trying to help him mature, Lynn felt he was trying to be stripped of one of the attributes that had defined his career path.
"I've always pitched with a lot of emotion and attitude," Lynn says. "From the age of 12 on up, everyone loved it. It wasn't until I got here that it got me in trouble. Mike's first year, he didn't really like it at first. Now, I think he knows that is who I am and that is how I have to be to be successful. He might have thought I was being a young kid with a bad attitude, but I think he realized that was not what I was trying to do. That was just the way I compete."
It became part of a two-year exercise in self-discovery, which also included the issue of his weight. When the Cardinals suggested offseason dieting after the 2012 season, Lynn dropped 40 pounds. Everyone gushed over the transformation, only to watch Lynn lose stamina when August rolled around. He looks back and believes the slide on the scale compromised his durability.
"I think in the first two years, I was trying to do things to make people happy," Lynn says. "But after a while, you have to be who you are in order to be successful. When you're trying to be something you're not, it's hard to concentrate on the real goal. The real goal is to go out there pitch, and try to get everybody out."
He's physically strong these days as he marches on toward a second straight season of 200-plus innings, and whether Lynn has noticed or not, he's handling his emotions differently, often letting them out when he stifles a rally instead of mid-inning when things go wrong behind him.
Among those who helped Lynn mature was Carpenter, who assured him there it was OK to pitch angry, if channeled properly. The payoff to that advice has been in the results. In his last 22 outings, Lynn has had one snowball inning of three or more runs allowed.
"He has an edge when he pitches, and that's fine," general manager John Mozeliak says. "A lot of good pitchers do, frankly. He has an ability right now to harness that and really manage the damage much better."
With the adjustment, Lynn has broken through from a pitcher with potential to one who could currently challenge for ace status in another rotation. Now it's just a matter of whether the attention will follow.
Of course, he couldn't care less if it does.
"There are guys who are going to be forgotten on every staff. That's part of it," Lynn says. "Some people are overhyped. Some people are underhyped. It depends on what city you're in, who likes you more than others. That's how it goes in life. Some people like you more than others."